Six years ago the world was introduced to the Nintendo Wii, and with it the bundling of Wii Sports. The collection of bite sized, family friendly sport games was hugely successful in bringing video games to a whole new market of players as well as showcasing the potential of motion controls. This year we see the release of the Wii U, and with it comes Nintendo’s second attempt at pleasing players with their bundled software that utilizes their new controller. Welcome to Nintendo Land.
The game only comes bundled with the deluxe edition of the system, but it can be purchased as a full priced retail game if you purchase the basic system. It takes a similar approach to that of Wii Sports Resort by offering the player a promise of escape to a cheery getaway, this time to an amusement park called Nintendo Land.
The theme park has 12 playable attractions. You can either find them in the park as your Mii or simply select one from the menu to save some time. There are an equal six single player and six multiplayer attractions in total. Within each game there are various stamps that can be earned for completing certain tasks. I will give a few thoughts on each attraction (specifically if it showcases the Wii U’s potential well) in no particular order and then my final opinions on the game as a whole.
Single player attractions:
- Balloon Trip Breeze: Based off of the NES classic Balloon Fight, this game is a single-player side scroller. There are various enemies and obstacles that will try and prevent the player from reaching the end of the stage. The character is controlled by swiping the stylus on the gamepad to send them in different directions. You can also tap certain obstacles with the stylus to destroy them. The game is unimpressive both technically and visually. This would be a decent $0.99 app for the Iphone, but it does nothing to prove the Wii U is an innovative console.
- Captain Falcon’s Twister Race: Set in the F-Zero universe, this attraction has the player controlling a highly maneuverable, high speed racing craft. It controls by utilizing the Wii U’s gyroscope- tilting the gamepad to control your vehicle. Although the game is nice to look at and fun to play, it doesn’t offer anything new; motion steering was something we’ve had access to for years. Playing it on the Wii U isn’t any different.
- Donkey Kong’s Crash Course: Another motion based attraction, this one has the player tilting a small kart in the style of the original arcade game. You’ll have to work your way through each elaborate course which requires you to make use of the gamepad’s triggers, microphone, gyroscope, and touch screen. The obstacles are a bit gimmicky, but it was nice to play something that used more than just one basic feature. It was also nice to be able to use both the TV screen and the gamepad; it allows the player to see not just the intricacies of the obstacle that they’re at on the gamepad, but also glance at the zoomed out TV screen to take a peek at what to expect next.
- Octopus Dance: This one is a simple memory game with classic Game & Watch pasted on top of it. You’ll have to mimic an instructor’s moves by using the control sticks and gyroscope. Occasionally the instructor will turn around on one screen, making you shift your eyes to either the TV or gamepad in order to avoid confusion from his backwards movements. This one is very simple and just as forgettable.
- Takamaru’s Ninja Castle: Based on a Japan-only SNES game that I’ve never heard of, this attraction has the player hurling ninja stars at opponents in order to save a princess. Stars are thrown by holding the gamepad flat and swiping forward. You can refill your supply by holding the controller upright for a brief moment, and you can throw stars at an angle by tilting the controller. The initial wow factor of seeing a ninja star travel from the gamepad to the TV screen is kind of cool, but aside from that there isn’t much to set this one apart from the flood of smartphone apps that have pounded this genre into the ground.
- Yoshi’s Fruit Cart: This final single player attraction presents the player on a mechnical Yoshi in a small green field littered with fruit. The goal is to devise a path for the mechanical Yoshi to travel in order to reach the end point of each stage. The line is drawn using the stylus on the gamepad. All pieces of fruit must be collected in order to advance. The difficulty comes from not being able to see the fruit on the gamepad and not being able to see your drawn line on the TV screen; you’ll need to utilize both to complete each level. It’s certainly not the flashiest game that comes on the disk, but as a testimonial for the Wii U’s ability to create new experiences it definitely works.
- Animal Crossing Sweet Day: The first of three directly competitive two player games, this attraction has one player running around collecting candy and trying to deposit it at various stations across the map and the other player controlling two guards trying to stop them. As candy is picked up by Player 1, they will get heavier and move slower. There’s actually a good bit of strategy involved, and once you get the hang of controlling two guards with the control sticks the gameplay can get pretty hectic and strategic. It’s definitely one of the more engaging attractions to choose from. The only downside is that it’s easy for the gamepad player to peek at the TV screen and immediately know the whereabouts of the the candy collector. It’s based on an honesty system, which never seems to work out too well. I’m looking at you, Goldeneye N64 split screen.
- Legend of Zelda Battle Quest: Having little to do with the actual series, this Zelda game will give a bow and arrow to the gamepad player and a sword and shield to the Wiimote wielder. The game is on-rails and will have the players march across various stages, defeating waves of enemies in their path. The swordplay is a lot of fun, especially with a Wii motion plus. The bow and arrow gameplay feels a bit lacking, though. As a Wii app I would deem this one a big success. It gets fairly difficult on the later stages, too. As a Wii U game, though, it doesn’t offer much innovation.
- Luigi’s Ghost Mansion: My personal cream of the crop. Taking place in the mansion from the original Gamecube game, this competitive two player game pits one player as Luigi and the other as a ghost. The ghost is invisible to Luigi on the TV screen while Luigi is totally visible to the ghost on the gamepad. Luigi must shine his flashlight with limited battery on the ghost head on to do damage to him, and the ghost must reach Luigi unseen to capture him. There are also various elements that add to the excitement, such as robotic patrol guards, battery powerups for Luigi and random bursts of lightning that make the ghost visible for a moment, which can even be used by the ghost to fake out Luigi. The Wiimote will rumble when the ghost is near, adding an amazing feeling of tension. It was a rush that I hasn’t felt in a multiplayer game in a while. This one will keep me coming back for a bit.
- Mario Chase: Another one of my favorites. The final directly competitive two player game in Nintendo Land has one player dressed as Mario and the other as a Toad. Mario tries to avoid Toad in a large circular maze for two minutes. If Toad tackles Mario, the game is over. Toad also has the help of two computer controlled Yoshis who will try and cut Mario off and slow him down. The two later stages feature some obstacles that will make things tricky for both players such as thick mud pits and large slides that allow fast travel across the map. It’s brilliant to see the differences that each player experiences; Mario sees the entire map from a top down view, including where Toad and the Yoshis are located. Toad has more of a third person perspective. He can see Mario running, but it’s difficult to gauge where he intends to dash to. It’s a lot of fun, a good use of the gamepad, and perfectly coupled with a night of heavy drinking.
- Metroid Blast: My least favorite of the group. This one can either be played as a cooperative or competitive game. The gamepad user controls Samus’ ship while all Wiimote players take control of a fighter on land. There is a deathmatch mode available for play. Despite the potential of the idea, the controls absolutely ruined this one for me. I tried hard to look at this attraction objectively, but the clunky control system made it borderline unplayable for me.
- Pikmin Adventure: Pikmin Adventure can be played with two to five players. The gamepad user will control Olimar and all other players will control various Pikmin. The cooperative experience is fairly in depth and allows players to level up from collected nectar. The Pikmin can coordinate their attacks to beat up bad guys. The multiplayer option pits everyone in a battle arena, battling monsters and each other to try and end the round with the most candy. Bombs and rocks can be used to attack enemies and other players. This one didn’t feel very much like an “adventure”, but I’ll definitely fire it up again from time to time.
In all, I would be lying if I said there were more memorable experiences than forgettable to be had with Nintendo Land. I certainly don’t regret paying the premium for the deluxe Wii U because there is a good bit I will be returning for. As a single player purchase, I simply can’t recommend it. Multiplayer is really the only department where this game shines, but when it shines, it shines brightly. It has given me a new sense of excitement to see what truly creative developers will create for my shiny new black box.
If you’re looking for a bite sized collection of multiplayer games that can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike, it may be worth it for you to bite the bullet. Everything is easily digestible, making it great to bust out at a drunken party or to show off your new system, but there’s only a small selection of attractions that will convince you to pop the disk in for a second round.
Final Score: 3/5 Decent.
Nintendo Land is not a bad multiplayer experience, but I’d be lying if I said it was anywhere close to great as a whole. The fun you will have comes directly from how silly of a mindset you hold while entering its gates. If you’re expecting an in-depth, action packed joyride you may wish to reconsider. If you do make the purchase, be sure to have a couple of close friends handy.
I will also be reviewing Scribblenauts Unlimited and New Super Mario Bros U in the coming days, as well as my full Wii U review as soon as I give myself enough time to give it a proper analysis. Thanks for reading!